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Zakhem and the battle for the soul of GU


The wheeling and dealings that turned the once mighty Gaborone United Sporting Club from a position of football power and professionalism to the shadows of regress and relegation could have never been predicted.  STAFF WRITER, MOSIMANEGAPE TSHOSWANE sees the club’s kingpins shifting sands to control the club’s once bold investor, Nicholas Zakhem, who unfortunately never saw his grip diminishing.   

Gaborone United was once the envy of other premier league teams. But nobody saw the popularity of the club fading away as internal blood wars gradually ate away the soul of Moyagoleele. In the permitting impressive years of 2010 and 2011, GU had opened an insurmountable gap between itself and other elite clubs in as far as football commercialisation is concerned.

 A committee chaired by the brains of Dr Nkomazana was to later study and comprehend strategies and all modalities that were to enable GU house to stand forever. Among others, the GU constitution was amended and an entity called Soccer Dynamics was instituted as a vehicle driving the commercial wing of the team.

Through it, business guru, Nicholas Zakhem was the majority shareholder with 51 percent while the remaining 49 percent was given to the club’s society, Gaborone United. All was set and done as GU was an instant marvel both in the boardroom and on the field of play.
This is the reason the memory of the team’s 2010 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League performance is still alive and vivid to those who love the club with unbridled passion.

No any other GU’s die hard follower will forget the club’s historic battle against South Africa’s power house Orlando Pirates. The club had also brought in the auspicious mettle of one Tymon Katholo, as the President to bolster a team well versed with football administration.
But eight years from now, GU’s cross town rivals Township Rollers have knocked The Reds off their perch. GU is instead, a picture of exasperation that is walking through storms of debts and regrets.

While it is increasingly becoming difficult to put together the fall of The Reds, all football conspiracy theories point to a heavy fall out amongst GU’s file and rank kingpins. Rather, it is slightly common knowledge that in the winter of 2015, elections happened. They could not further tighten the team’s football ambition, but instead triggered the team’s fall from the dizzy highways.

Until now, nobody at the heart of Moyagoleele knows exactly what happened between the saviour Katholo and the messiah Zakhem — all information of the club point fingers of blame towards ballooning egos clash between the two men. Zakhem is a man whom many of his critics have always questioned his football exploits. But what is not in doubt is that he has transformed GU from a mediocre club to a championship material. He managed to pay the best players in the League and went on to win several championships.
 

Those close to him believe that he is a good schemer who knows how to maneuver the unpredictable football terrain such that most football administrators do not like crossing his path. There is rumour in the football circles that he has never lost a football matter especially those involving the fight for players.

On the other hand, Katholo is regarded as one of the shrewdest administrators in local football although of late he has seen his hands dipped in GU blood. His admirers credit him with honesty, principle and fairness. But this is a man who has investigated Zakhem while working as DCEC chief. As the team was rattled by alleged election rigging in 2015, Katholo later emerged as a lead character of a group that filed a case of defamation against Zakhem.

 It is stated on several platforms that the two men are two poles apart in the running of GU. Katholo stood for the position of chairmanship but lost to Okaile Rapula. He is now leading beleaguered GU as an ‘elder’ of the club. Despite his perceived strained relationship with Zakhem, mostly arising from the football politics, many still believe that he is a man who acts on facts. But others continue to question his integrity as an elder of the club.

It is further feared that this apparent attitude if not addressed will cost GU many silverware. Ironically, Katholo as an elder of GU is expected to come face to face with Zakhem to negotiate better terms for the club to return to glory. On Monday of this week, the business mogul expressed his interest in working with whoever is running the club. It remains to be seen if Katholo and co will open their hearts to accommodate Zakhem lest it will be a marriage of convenience.

GU faces a precarious situation they never confronted before. They stand of the brink of collapse should they fail to pay sacked player P400 000. It is either relegation or Zakhem! The current Secretary General of the club co-opted by elder’s committee, Kennedy Ramojela argues that there is no rift between Katholo and Zakhem. He is of the view that elders want proper procedures to be followed for Zakhem to rejoin the team he says he adores the most.

“It is a perception that the two men are not seeing eye-to-eye. Elders want procedures to be followed to the letter for Zakhem to come again on board,” he said. GU is currently toying with the idea of renegotiating with Chippa United where its two players have been purchased.  The initial agreement was that Chippa was to pay in installments until next year June. 

It was agreed that P 200 000 be paid after registration is finally completed. The second installment, which is P 500 000 is expected to be dropped in December while the last P 500 000 will be completed in June of next year. GU badly needs this money to retrace the redemption road. Zakhem in the meantime is watching as the clock ticks.

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Sport

GU wins title after 13 years

23rd May 2022
GU

Gaborone United was this week crowned 2021/2022 Botswana Premier League (BPL) champions following their 1-0 win over the holders, Jwaneng Galaxy. Thero Setsile’s 13th minute’s goal was enough to seal the league championship, ending 13 years of drought from the Old Naledi outfit.

With two games to go before the top-flight season wraps up, Gaborone United opened a seven points gap to second placed Township Rollers having accumulated 63 points from twenty eight games. The Money machine were the first team to open a new chapter in the history books of Botswana football, when they were crowned the inaugural 2008/09 be Mobile Premiership champions, that came up with P1 million as prize money. Thereafter the club has been on the league drought as it could only manage winning Coca Cola FA Cup in 2012, Mascom top 8 twice in 2013 and 2015. They also won the Orange FA cup last season.

The return of Zackhem as the club financier signaled a new era with a number of galactic signings for the 2021/2022 season. The team brought into their fold big names in local football; Kekaetswe Moloi, Lesego Galenamotlhale and Joel Mogorosi. The arrival of enterprising left wing back Mothusi Johnson, dribbling wizard Mpho Kgaswane and hard tackling midfielder, Lebogang Ditsele made the job easier for the coaches.

Attacker Onkabetse Makgantai also joined the marauding attackers in Thatayaone Kgamanyane and Thero Setsile to make their front line combination the deadliest in the league. Both Kgamanyane and Setsile have netted 34 goals this season with the goal minder Goitseone Phoko keeping 20 clean sheets thus far while conceding just 10 goals. GU is still on the Orange FA Cup race and football commentators believe that they are the favorites looking at the quality of their squad.

As it stands should the Money Machine win all their remaining games, they stand a chance to equal the highest championship winning points record of 76 points which set by Mochudi Center chiefs during the 2007-2008 football season. That record stood for 14 years and Gaborone United could equal that feat should they win their remaining games against Sua Flamingos and struggling Notwane. The Money Machine made the bold statement begging of the 2021/2020 football season when they won 11 games straight games without even conceding a goal.

The Reds, who are under the guidance of Innocent Morapedi, a seasoned coach and his assistant Pontsho Moloi, has been consistent in the title race. In the process, the Old Naledi side has scored 59 goals while conceding the least goals (10 goals) and has a superior goal difference of 49 goals. Gaborone United success breaks Township Rollers and Mochudi Center Chiefs dominance as the only teams to have won the league title more than any other club in the last 13 seasons. GU’s proximity to money and talent were key this season.

Domestically since GU last won the league title, Mochudi Center Chiefs have won it three times; whilst the most decorated football club with 16 titles, Rollers has been dominating the league, winning five titles on the spin in five seasons from 2013-14 to 2018-19.  Last season, Jwaneng Galaxy was crowned champions for the very first time due to being at the top of the table when the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the season to be prematurely halted with ten games to play.

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Sport

Softball returns to play

23rd May 2022
Softball

After two years of no action across various sports codes including softball, Botswana Softball Association (BSA) is going back to the grounds to resuscitate the sport.

This weekend all roads lead to Selibe Phikwe for the top eight ladies championship. The eight ladies teams comprise the top four ladies teams from the south and north regions. They will then come together and form eight teams and battle it out this weekend at the Phikwe Softball Grounds and Area 2 Mowana Ball Park. The competing ladies teams are Titans, Police, Vikings, UB Giants, Rail giants, Scramblers, Carats and Ghetto Yankees. The champions will be crowned thereafter.

Softball Association Public relations officer, Boingotlo Marope explained that this tournament is not only for ladies, she said men’s championship will be held at Gaborone on the 28th May 2022.  She said they have noticed that everything is confined to Gaborone as their headquarters in the southern region. As a result they have decided to take other activities to the northern region as well. “We are trying to grow softball, we don’t want everything to surround Gaborone only which is why the ladies tournament will be held at Selebi Phikwe in the northern region to bring equality.”

However, she explained that the reason they were missing in action is because of Covid 19. “We saw government cautionary trying to protect everyone by putting certain restrictions as spots had to stop for 12 months, we welcomed 12 months to protect Batswana. As a results that lead to the closure as there were no games”.

In addition Marope said they currently don’t have sponsors however private sector has always come through. Bofinet has to cut the sponsorship but that is not due to Covid 19 crisis. “Bofinet has showed commitment, they promised that as soon as they are settled they will come to our door knocking again,” she added.

Marope further said as a results they rely on their tight budget. Few of players has been sponsored, some has to dig from their own pockets, some parents cannot sent their children as some had to quit. “We have worked with our tight budget to assist teams and hoping that in the coming season we can have somebody to assist”.

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Sport

Botswana ranked 4th in Zone 4 boxing tourney

4th May 2022
Boxing

The Botswana national boxing team recently returned from the zone 4 championship held in Mozambique. The team was led by head coach Thebe Setlalekgosi, two assistant coaches, Gibson Rauwe and Pearl Mooketsi. Two referees and judges, Gaseitsewe Ponatshego and Linda Mooketsi.

In the women’s category, Lethabo Modukanele was representing Botswana in the 48 kg division, while Phekie Bele and Sadie Kenosi were competing in the 57 kg and 60 kg categories, respectively. In the men’s category, Kobamelo Molatlhegi was representing the country in the 52 kg division, while Rajab Mahomed was competing in the under 51 kg category.George Molwantwa was competing for under 57 kg category and Treasure Moremi was competing for under 60kg category.

The boxers came home with seven medals, Modukanele came home with a gold medal, Kenosi, Rajab, Molatlhegi all came home with silver medals. While Moremi, Molwantwa and Phekie Bele all came home with bronze medals.

According to Moitshepi Nkabiti, the public relations officer of the Botswana Boxing Association, the team performed well and that they were hoping that Rajab would also bring home a gold medal. However, due to an eye injury, he could not participate in the finals.

He stated that, “though some people might think that how our team performed is not an achievement it is a big achievement to us. Other countries came with 19 boxers while we only came with our seven boxers, and they all came back with medals. That is something that we have to be proud of I really commend them for their performance. Having 5 players making it to the finals is really a blessing and we should not take it for granted.”

According to Nkabiti, Botswana was ranked fourth in the zone 4 championship, which was held in Mozambique. Other countries that participated in the tournament included South Africa, Zambia, Eswatini, and Seychelles. They all had a total of 19 boxers. Lesotho also had eight boxers.

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